Elmore County slips out of state tournamentPublished 7:32pm Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Elmore County lost its rhythm.
Riding an 11-game win streak, including winning all three games at regionals, uncharacteristic defensive errors and few hits landed a dull note for the Lady Panthers. Leading 2-0 in both of its AHSAA Class 4A State Tournament games, Central-Florence and Headland overtook ECHS (32-6) for elimination.
“When we lost first game, that was the first time we had lost in a while,” Lady Panther head coach Wilbur Terrell said. “The girls were really down, it was hard to come back and even play after that. It was hard to get in our game.”
Elmore County committed five errors against Central. Three other times this season, the team recorded that many errors, with two of those game being half of their losses coming into the state tourney.
After a solo home run from senior Haley Britt, who finished the tourney 2-for-7 with two RBIs to lead ECHS, in the second and a two-out RBI single from senior Brooke Nettles in the third, the Panthers led Central 2-0. In the fifth, a ground-ball skirted under senior Olivia Royal’s glove at third base and senior pitcher Chelsea Fomby, who gave up just three earned runs in the tourney, airmailed a throw to second base, allowing Central to score all four of its runs off both errors.
“We started off playing decent, but we struggled early,” Terrell said. “We just happened to get out of some jams in the first, second and third innings. I thought the fifth was a crucial inning; I thought if we could get past that inning, we’d be OK. But we got into some trouble, which was uncharacteristic of us all year. The girls were a little nervous. I think it hurt us that we hadn’t been (to state) in awhile.”
The Panthers followed up its five-hit performance with a four-hit outing in the elimination game versus Headland. In both games combined, ECHS struck out 19 times.
“I didn’t feel like we hit the ball,” Terrell said. “We didn’t make them play like we normally do. We didn’t execute the speed game.
“One thing I learned about playing in those big games, you got to hit the ball on the ground, keep making them have to play. If you do that, good things happen. We had a lot of easy pop-ups in crucial situations.”
While its finished short of its ultimate goal, Terrell said his girls have a lot to boast. And with him coaching his last game Friday, those proud moments is what he will remember about the team.
“I felt like we went down as a winner, we’re still a winner in my mind,” he said. “I told them don’t look at the season by these last two games. Be proud of what you accomplished.
“Of course it would be better to go out a state champion, but winning 32 ballgames, you got to be proud of girls for that. This season has never been about me retiring, never been about wins for me. It’s been all about the girls. It was never about ‘man it’s my last chance to do something.’ It was do everything you could do for the girls.”
As evident by its record, Terrell said he’ll remember this year’s team chemistry.
“How well they played together, that’ll always stand out to me. When we lost Kaitlyn (McCurdy), which was one of our big bats and our second pitcher, a lot of people said we weren’t going to be above .500. We were able to overcome that for most part this season. I thought we played really well, came together. In a way, it made us stronger and work harder to come together as a team.”